TikTok has a ton of potential – and brands are only scratching the surface – originally featured on MarketingTech.

Not everyone loves it when the new kid shows up and starts turning heads, but sometimes there is a reason to pay attention. On the social media playground, that new kid is TikTok — and it is time for brands to take notice.

ByteDance’s addictive video app, now barely three years old, was downloaded 315 million times in the first quarter of 2020 — more than any other app has been downloaded in a single quarter, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. Advertisers are rushing to be part of TikTok marketing, and ByteDance expects $500 million of U.S. ad revenue this year.

Brands are quickly realising they need to incorporate TikTok into their social media campaign strategies, but many aren’t sure where to start. Ultimately, the best way to understand the benefits of using TikTok is to watch what other brands are doing with it.

Finding the formula

For a good idea of the potential of marketing on TikTok, look no further than e.l.f. Cosmetics. The makeup brand struck gold last year with its “Eyes.Lips.Face” campaign, which was designed to create brand awareness and reinforce that e.l.f. Cosmetics has product lines for each of those areas.

The hashtag challenge featured the first original music used in a TikTok campaign and perfectly used a proven formula for increasing social media engagement: It featured a catchy tune and a recognisable artist to spark an irresistible urge to move and dance — and it blew up. After launching last October, it has since inspired 2 million other videos and 4.7 billion views.

The fact that this campaign nailed the formula doesn’t mean the recipe for TikTok success looks the same for every brand. Some companies have been engaging their audiences by pulling comments from posts right into their videos, connecting directly with viewers and making them feel like part of the brand.

Others are using creators (known as influencers on virtually every other platform) to draw attention, which can be especially effective on this platform. One of the benefits of TikTok is that it naturally lends itself to creating more authentic social media content. Unlike on Instagram, where it can feel evident that a brand is just paying an influencer to promote its product or service, TikTok feels more like handing an artist a paintbrush to decorate an empty canvas. Celebrities who create content that doesn’t ring true to who they are will stick out like sore thumbs.

Remember, the app is still so new that it’s hard to say what approaches might work for which types of companies. The platform is changing every day, and brands that pay close attention to those shifts are going to have the most luck using TikTok marketing to drive sales. When they do it the right way, views are virtually guaranteed.

If you’re feeling uninspired or overwhelmed by the idea of trying to create yet another social media strategy, take a deep breath. The new kid in town is pretty easy to get to know. Master the basics, and creativity will follow.

Define your goals for TikTok

TikTok is new and exciting, and it’s easy to get swept up in a hot trend. As with anything else in marketing, the first questions to ask aren’t about which trends you can seise upon — focus on how your brand’s identity and overarching goals fit into that trend.

Before you jump in with a TikTok campaign strategy plan, consider why you want to use the platform in the first place. What are you hoping to do? Experiment? Connect with a new audience? Create authentic, quick video content?

Beyond that, it comes back to even more fundamental questions: What are you trying to accomplish as a company? Who is your target audience? Make sure these answers are clear before you add the pressure of a new platform into your marketing mix.

Watch, learn, and play

One of the best ways to figure out your TikTok marketing strategy is to watch what everyone else is doing. Look at how other brands are using the platform and what prominent creators are making. Figure out what you like and what seems like it could work for your brand, and then experiment.

It may feel strange at first, but TikTok will become second nature quickly — especially when you pay attention to how other brands are using it. Once you have a feel for what fits your brand’s personality, you can begin building a message and content plan.

Look past the ‘For You’ page

Trends form on TikTok in a variety of ways. You can follow sounds to see top songs, and hashtags can take on a life of their own. Just don’t get stuck looking solely at the main “For You” page — dig around to see what’s going on beyond the hot trends. After all, a lot of those big trends started small.

Things can go viral quickly and unintentionally on TikTok. Rae Wellness discovered this when hashtags related to the brand and its metabolism drops took off on the platform. It started with someone sharing an unsponsored review of the product on TikTok, and soon people were testing it out and responding. Suddenly, everyone was interested in the product — and it started to sell out at Target stores across the country. To build a strong social media campaign strategy for TikTok, look for ways to generate a similar groundswell.

The new kid has taken the playground by storm, and it’s safe to say that kid is here to stay. As a marketer, know that TikTok isn’t something to fear — even if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of strategically using yet another social media platform. Giving the new kid a fair shot will pay off in the end.